Exercise and pregnancy: What patients need to know

April 7, 2010

Virtually all health care professionals who responded to a recent survey thought that exercise is good medicine for expecting mothers. However, 60% of the physicians and 86% of the doctors of osteopathy were not familiar with current pregnancy exercise guidelines.

Virtually all health care professionals who responded to a recent survey thought that exercise is good medicine for expecting mothers. However, 60% of the physicians and 86% of the doctors of osteopathy were not familiar with current pregnancy exercise guidelines.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveyed 93 MDs, DOs, and nurse midwives about their knowledge of exercise recommendations for pregnant women. Although updated comprehensive pregnancy guidelines are available from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the study results indicated that some practitioners have outdated ideas about pregnancy and exercise.

Therefore, the ACSM recommends that all health care professionals familiarize themselves with current pregnancy exercise guidelines, which are included in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, so that they can offer patients helpful advice. A Fact Sheet for Professionals is provided by the ACSM as a quick desk-side reference to the activity guidelines, which are geared to various patient groups.

Recommendations for pregnant and postpartum women include the following:
•Healthy women who are not already performing vigorous-intensity physical activity should perform at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
•Performance of this activity should be spread throughout the week.
•Women who regularly engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or high amounts of activity may continue their activity provided that their condition remains unchanged and that they talk to their health care professional about their activity level throughout their pregnancy.

The ACSM noted that overall exercise recommendations may be tailored to specific patients’ needs. Health care professionals are encouraged to include more information about physical activity and its benefits in maternity education materials provided to patients.

For more information about the survey and exercise recommendations, visit the ACSM Web site at  www.acsm.org. Or, contact the organization at American College of Sports Medicine, PO Box 1440, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1440; telephone: (317) 637-9200; fax: (317) 634-7817.